Newspaper Headlines and Colloquial English: Anything in Common?

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What is typical of written language might be expected not to be typical of spoken language, and vice versa. However, as far as newspaper headlines and colloquial speech are concerned, there appears to be at least one feature which the two seem to have in common. Characterising “minor sentences”, i.e. sentences constructed in an irregular way, Crystal points out that “There are only a few minor sentence types, but instances of each type are frequently used in everyday conversation and when conversations are represented in fiction. They are also common in certain types of written language, such as notices, headlines, labels, advertisements, subheadings, and other settings where a message is presented as a ‘block’.” Kotlandova goes even further when she describes contemporary newspaper headlines as “public colloquial style”. The present study sets out to compare irregular sentences in the two registers to find out whether minor sentences are indeed something they share or whether sentence irregularity as an important stylistic feature, though present to some extent in both, shows some specific differences distinguishing between the registers.


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